Educating Nola – Managing the Daily Tasks.

I’m back on track for the Blogging 101 course, although probably not quite able to feel comfortable with all the tasks.

Today’s task was to work on my ‘About’ page. I have looked at my information on this page encapsulated in one paragraph. I have always been a very private person, and have never liked talking about myself, so found this task rather difficult. I feel I have captured the spirit of this task in this one paragraph, as it tells how I got interested in my family history, which I’m actually blogging about.

I also need to see if I can add a ‘widget’ or two to my blogs. Must to go back to the ‘how to’ instructions for that one. Our instructors, or team leaders are very helpful and patient, which is just as well with technologically challenged students such as myself.

However, I have tried to follow the course section by section, and have started a new blog from the beginning at for my ‘local history’.

I have developed a deep interest in the history of the Clarence River District, in northern New South Wales over many, many years,although we have no family connections here. For nearly fifty years I have been researching, collecting documents, and writing about the area, and have published numerous books on various topics.

I have written much more about myself on my ‘about’ page on my new blog, but probably need to edit that down and rearrange it all, as it is a bit like a CV, which we were advised to avoid. I will look at that over the next few days, to see if I can get that down to succinct paragraph or two, too.

As well as sharing our own family histories on my original blog, I now plan to share some of my huge local history collection, on this new blog, starting with some stories from women’s perspective, concerning World War I.

These blogs I plan to present as a serial, over the next few weeks or so.

It is the story of two sisters, who found themselves trapped ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ in Berlin at the beginning of World War I.

See you all somewhere in cyberspace soon.


Australian World War I Battlefields Tour – Family Hero, Phillip John Vincent – Bullecourt

In a previous blog I mentioned Lance-Corporal Frank Leslie Bell, who was killed in the disastrous First Battle of Bullecourt in April 1917.

Another family hero, who had been involved and survived the First Battle of Bullecourt was Private Phillip John Vincent. He was the youngest son of Alfred and Elizabeth Vincent (nee Bell). His father had died in 1910, leaving Elizabeth a widow, and  “Jack’ as he was known, a young fellow not yet sixteen years of age.

In February 1916, a week after his twenty-first birthday, he followed two of his older brothers into the Australian Imperial Forces, and went into training. A newspaper article gave some details:-

“ Private Jack Vincent, who is now in camp at Cootamundra, was prior to enlisting in the employ of Dwyer Bros at Moppity for four years. When leaving for camp, Messrs Dwyer Bros wished to show their esteem of a good employee, and one whom they were very sorry to lose, although proud of his determination to go forth to battle. They presented Private Vincent with a luminous dial wristlet watch as a memento of his associations with the Dwyer Bros, who also expressed best wishes for a safe return after the war to home and friends.”

He embarked on the troopship Wiltshire in August, and went straight to England, for further training until the end of the year. He was sent to the Western Front as part of the reinforcements to the 1st battalion in January 1917. His two older brothers were already there.

A few weeks later Jack sent a letter to his mother at home in Young.

“ We have been here about three months. I have not seen much of it yet. Les Jennings, Harold Wales and Dick Short are over here. I have also met others I knew before the war.” Jack goes on to relate a humorous scene he witnessed. “ In one place where we were, the Germans used to get up on top of the trenches and light fires and run about all over the place in broad daylight. Our chaps were the same. They wouldn’t shoot at us and we didn’t shoot at them. They wanted to meet us half way with a bottle of whiskey. They used to wave bottles at us. It was funny one day. One old Fritz (a man with a grey beard) who wanted to meet our captain half way with a bottle. He was only about 30 yards from us. Anyway, he got out of the trench, and the captain got out of our trench with a rifle and bayonet. Fritz held his hands up jumped about and laughed like mad. But he would not come over. He said he was afraid of the bayonet.”

About the same time as his mother received this chatty letter, Jack Vincent was in the thick of fighting in the First Battle of Bullecourt.

On the 11th April the Australians had been ordered to take the German trenches near Bullecourt.

Further details of the battle can be found at-

Bullecourt, a village in northern France, was one of several villages to be heavily fortified and incorporated into the defences of the Hindenburg Line in 1917.

In March 1917, the German army had withdrawn to the Hindenburg Line in order to shorten their front-line and thus make their positions easier to defend. This move was rapidly followed up by the British and empire forces, and they launched an offensive around Arras in early April 1917.

An attack was launched at Bullecourt on 11 April 1917.This was hastily planned and mounted and resulted in total disaster.

Nevertheless, the infantry managed to break into the German defences. Due to uncertainty as to how far they had advanced, supporting artillery fire was withheld, and eventually the Australians were hemmed in and forced to retreat.

The two Australian brigades that carried out the attack, suffered over 3,300 casualties; 1,170 Australians were taken prisoner – the largest number captured in a single engagement during the whole war.

After several hours of fierce fighting, sometimes hand to hand, the Germans received reinforcements, and were able to drive the Australians from the trenches, they had captured early in the day, and forced them to retreat back to their original front line.

Jack Vincent had been in the thick of the fighting, and had survived that terrible carnage. We have no words from him giving us an idea of how he felt about it all.

Three weeks later in early May, The British and Australian Lines were approximately where they had been on the 11th April. On the 5th May, the British and Australians attacked the German Line again. After many hours of relentless fighting, the allies were able to make some progress, and over the next few days were to successfully recapture the ground lost in the previous battle. This battle continued for two weeks until the Australian and British were finally able to drive the Germans back.

Of the estimated 150,000 men from both sides who fought at the Second Battle of Bullecourt some 18,000 British and Australians, and 11,000 Germans, had been killed or wounded.

Jack Vincent went into battle, at daylight on the 5th May, clambering towards the German trenches. It was difficult to know from hour to hour the progress of the battle, and how many had been killed, and where.

Jack Vincent had been killed, but there was confusion over the actual date and place.

When finally a roll call was made, and he was found missing, inquiries were made of his mates, to ascertain what had happened to him. This was carried out by the Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau of the Australian Red Cross, whose records are at the Australian War Memorial and now available on-line at

Private W Huckle of D Company, 14th Platoon recalled-” I saw him killed at Bullecourt. He was hit with shell fragments about the body and was killed instantly. I knew him very well, he was the only man of that name in the Company. We held the ground, but I do not know the place of burial, and I cannot refer to anyone for particulars. He was sure to have been buried near place of casualty.”

When the Imperial War Graves Commission began their work a couple of years later, Phillip John (Jack) Vincent’s burial place at Bullecourt could not be determined.

Nearly one hundred years later the Bullecourt Digger gazes silently over the fields, where Jack rests peacefully amongst his fallen comrades.

He and all his ‘missing’ companions are not forgotten, but are memorialised at the Australian National Memorial at Villers – Bretonneux, which we visited on the fourth day of our tour.

Here below Vern and I, with the Australian flag, stand in front of the Australian National Memorial, honouring Private P J Vincent, whose name is etched forever into the grey stone wall of the memorial.


Educating Nola – Busy Life.

Sometimes life gets complicated and family matters take you away from those activities you plan. That is what happened this week. Now I’m back doing my Blogging 101 course.

Day three’s task on the course, was to write the blog of why I started blogging in the first place. Although I have been blogging on and off for a while, I realised that I had written the blog about where it all started. I was trying my best to get organised with all my ‘history stuff’, both family and local. I have progressed, since I started putting my plans into place. However, I have not progressed as quickly, or as far as I originally planned, but I’m getting there. Blogging on my ancestors, has made me write about them more and put them into context, so that is a good thing. I just need to do more of it, so I can get these promised family history books, together, and share them with family and friends as planned.

Day four of the course, was to ‘Say Hi to my Neighbours- blogging ones that is. People who blog about and are interested in the same kind of things-genealogy, history and such. I spent several hours blissfully reading all about other peoples families and ancestors. Gave me lots of inspiration, ideas and encouragement to really get into the ‘blogging habit’ and consistently write up my research and findings. That will get me closer to getting my books finished.

The fifth day’s task was to ‘Love my theme’. Well, I have kept my theme at the moment, but have added my new title and tagline. Maybe I will experiment more a little later, when I have time and am curious about other ways of presenting my work.

The sixth day was to write a blog for our ‘dream reader’. I must admit I hadn’t thought about this aspect. I have been so engrossed in trying to get my blogs together, to make sense, and to be informative, as well as putting my experience or ideas across. At this stage my dream reader is anyone genuinely interested in family and local history.

Over the next few months I plan that my writing will be more consistent. A release from the daily stress of attending to life’s details, perhaps, but mainly to sort and get those stories onto paper.

Both our family histories and the local histories.

Catch you all somewhere in cyberspace if not tomorrow- soon.

Educating Nola – Still on Course

Today our assignment for Blogging 101 was to edit our blog title and add a tagline.

I can be pretty creative in lots of ways, usually in practical things, but really at a bit of a loss, when it comes to creating names for blogs. Up until today, I had just had my name and was blogging for family and friends, who all knew me. I hadn’t thought about the wider blogging community, but now I have had to think about it.

I have been the author of many books on local and family history, but I always baulked at giving any of them fancy titles. I wanted people to be able to find them in library catalogues. Librarians of my era were always very ‘straight-laced’ and ‘poker-faced’ kind of people and I fell into the same mould, when choosing book titles, so nothing very exciting. Should I take a more bold stand now when looking for a title for my blog?

Yesterday I told you how I’ve been obsessed about family history for a long time, and that my children labelled it ‘Mum’s Magnificent Obsession’. Should I dare to use that as my blog title with the tagline – ‘ another Family Historian always burning the midnight oil?’.

Now after a little reflection, I don’t think so. I might still be a bit obsessive, but certainly not ‘magnificent’- although my children might have thought so once, it seems a bit ostentatious now.

Should I go with a fun title, such as ‘Grandma the Family Detective’ with a tagline – ‘ and always on the case chasing ancestors?’. I can visualise the caricature the grandchildren would draw for that. Not ready for that one yet either, but given time I could get used to it perhaps.

At the moment I have gone for ‘ Nola’s Notes on History’ with the tagline- ‘Sharing and writing about the life and times of our ancestors and families’. Probably a more descriptive title which could apply to me at this stage of blogging.

Given time and experience, who knows what direction I might take in the future.

Catch you all somewhere in cyberspace tomorrow.

Educating Nola – A new beginning.

Today, I’m going back to the classroom. I’m taking the Blogging 101 on-line course over the next few weeks to really get into ‘blogging’ the proper way, or my version of it perhaps. I’m going to be continuing to share my experience, ideas and other stuff on family and local history, and hopefully in an informative but enjoyable way. In other words not too boring and self absorbing.

I’ve been ‘into’ family and local history most of my life. My husband not so much, but he is a ‘saint’ and very tolerant of it all.

Our children have grown up with it, and were not aware for years that other people had Dining and Lounge rooms in their homes, that were actually used for that purpose, and were not stacked high with books, folders and papers everywhere.

Their usual greeting when arriving home from school was- “Find any new dead-bodies today Mum?”- Much to the horror of any ‘visitors’ who might be having a cup of tea, and chat at our kitchen table. Of course what they meant was, had I found any long deceased person named in records that belonged to our family tree.

As the years went by and I was still going strong, our children then labelled my feverish activity -Mum’s ‘Magnificent Obsession’ . (Does anyone remember the old movie of that name?).

No doubt it’s true, as I am still very passionate about helping and encouraging everyone to investigate their own ancestors and heritage. I just love making contact with anyone remotely connected to my ‘family tree’ or anyone just as passionate about researching and writing history as I am.

I started a blog a couple of years ago, but then got cold feet for a while. We have recently returned home from a trip to Europe and Britain. I started blogging again as I got tired of telling the same stories and answering the same questions, over and over again, from family and friends. Now I just invite them to read my blog.

I have been very surprised with the response, and have decided I needed to find out how to do it all ‘properly’.

Now, I’m worried about if I’m doing it right. The family are already shaking their heads.

Catch you all somewhere in cyberspace tomorrow.

Australian World War I Battlefields – Family Hero, James Joseph Thomas Bell – Anzac

As we watched on TV, the Anzac Anniversary Ceremony broadcast from Albany Western Australia, yesterday, the question was asked; Did our family have anyone, who sailed out on the troopships from Albany a hundred years ago? The answer was yes, we did.

James Joseph Thomas Bell, known as ‘Tom’ was born in 1891, the eldest son of William James Allen and Louisa Mabel Grace Bell (nee Day), of Gundagai, New South Wales. He enlisted at Kensington Army Recruiting on 2 September 1914 and was one of the first in the state to join-up.

After nearly six weeks of basic training, the 1st Battalion marched out of the Kensington Racecourse Camp to Fort Macquarie, where they embarked on HMAT Afric on 18 October 1914. This ship of nearly 12,000 tons, with a speed of 13 knots, belonged to the Federal Steam Navigation Company of London and had been requisitioned, along with many other ships, by the Australian Government as a troopship.

The Afric and several other ships sailed from Sydney, for the port of Albany in Western Australia, to await the arrival of all the other Australian and New Zealand troopships, which were to be escorted by several war ships across the Indian Ocean. There were a total of forty ships in the complete convoy, and 27,000 able-bodied men, who were originally to sail to England, for further training to fight with the British soldiers, on the Western Front.

The Afric arrived at Albany on the 25 October. On 30 October the fleet learned that Britain and Turkey were at war, and the Australian and New Zealand troops were to be diverted to Egypt. The convoy of ships left Albany harbour on 1 November 1914.

Further details of the soldier’s training and life on the troopships, and camps, as well as throughout the war can be found in the ‘unit histories’ at the Australian War Memorial at

After disembarking at Alexandria on the 5 December the 1st Battalion marched to Mena Camp near Cairo.

(Below) A general view of the camp at Mena and a hotel, which was converted to a camp hospital.

The Camp at Mena LHN0013601 004

The ‘Unit history’ then detailed the training over the next four months before the 1st Australian Battalion embarked on Minniewaska on 5 April for the Dardanelles Campaign.

The Australian and New Zealand forces went into battle on 25 April 1914, against the Turks on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Tom Bell was part of the 1st Brigade, which ‘dug-in’ and manned the trenches on the steep Gallipoli shoreline.

C E W Bean in Volume II of the Official History of Australia in the War 1914-18, has maps and full descriptions of life and action in these trenches.

See “Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 – Volume II – The Story of ANZAC from 4 May 1915 to the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula (11th edition, 1941) found at

Tom Bell was severely wounded in the abdomen, in action at Lone Pine, on 26 June 1915, and was stretchered off to the ship, Gascon, where he died at 4.30 pm on 29 June. He was buried at sea about three miles off Gaba Tepe. He is memorialized on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli.

Private J J T Bell kept a diary while overseas, and this was returned to his parents after his death. Years later his youngest brother, Oscar Isaac Bell prepared some extracts for publication in the Gundagai Independent, and his daughter sent me a copy, which I shared with everyone in the Bell Family Newsletter No 5 (July 1986). Here is a copy of those extracts, which tells part of Tom’s story in his own words.

Extracts from the Diary of an Anzac

The following extracts are from the diary of Private J J T (Tom) Bell, No 1023, ‘D’ Company, 1st Btn., Infantry 1st AIF Division, eldest brother of Mr O Bell, of ‘Lone Pine’, Gundagai. Tom was severely wounded at ‘Lone Pine’ and was being evacuated to the Base Hospital on the Isle of Lemnos. He died on the way and was buried at sea.

The diary extracts read:-

Sunday, 18 October, 1914

We marched on-board Troopship Afric, and moved out to sea, which was very rough. We were all very sea sick.

Sunday, 25th October, 1914

We arrived at Albany. We have to wait a week for all the rest of the Troopships and our warship escort to catch up. Amongst our escort are three Japanese warships.

Sunday, 1st November, 1914

We leave Australia. Our troopships sail in three columns of five, with warships all around us.

Monday, 9th November, 1914

The German cruiser Emden, sighted by escort Sydney. They blazed away at each other for nearly two hours. The Sydney scored several hits, and the Emden beached herself on Cocos island to save herself from sinking. She was being coaled at the time and the Sydney then captured the collier and sank her after taking her crew off. 200 Germans killed on the Emden.

Tuesday, 24th November, 1914

We enter the Red Sea. We pass three Indian troopships returning to India for another load of Indian troops.

Saturday, 5th December, 1914

We arrive at Alexandria, Egypt. There are hundreds of English, French, and Indian troopships and warships in the harbour. They all saluted us as we passed.

Thursday, 10 September, 1914

I met a lot of Gundagai men today, Lt Beeken, from Solomon’s Store, Bugler Fitzsimmons, Larry Quinn, Bill Laffin, Harold Hansen, Micky Burke’s son, Tom Smith and George Bramley. Sir George Reid inspected us.

Wednesday, 24th February, 1915

I met Fred Elworthy, Jim McLean, Clem Harris, Bill Oliver, Doug Carr, Bill Eurell and Jack Rolfe.

Saturday, 10th April, 1915

We leave Alexandria, preparatory to sailing across the Mediterranean to the Dardanelles. We have five Generals aboard with us. General Birdwood gave us a very stirring address. He said that before we land we would be issued with 3 days’ rations and two hundred rounds of ammo. He advised us to be very careful of our water supply.

Monday, 12 April, 1915

We get a good view of the Dardanelles. We enter a bay at Lemnos Island. Hundreds of troopships, battleships, cruisers, submarines and other craft, and moving around us everywhere British, French, Indian, Russian and other nations were represented. The crew of the Queen Elizabeth pay us a visit. They said,”Look out for the Turks”.

Saturday, 24th April, 1915

We steam out from Lemnos Bay. Everyone seems to think there is something doing. We anchor on the north side of Lemnos Island. We are surrounded by cruisers. We are issued with three days rations, and ammo. Which weighs over 100 lbs altogether.

Sunday, 25th April, 1915

We arrive at Gulf of Saros. We land in knee deep water, under heavy rifle and shrapnel fire. The noise is terrific. We chase Turks with our bayonets from the shore for three miles. I could feel the bullets- whizzing past my face but I was lucky. We dig in. We were covered in the landing by heavy artillery fire from our warships. While chasing the Turks, we sang “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and other songs.

Thursday, 20th May, 1915

I heard the two Putlands were killed. I met Clem and Vern Harris, Bill Eurell, Bill Oliver and Roley Carr.

Monday, 24th May, 1915

An armistice to bury our dead, after 23 days continual bombardment. We were relieved by the 7th Light Horse. I heard George Elliott is about. Will try and find him during next lull.

Friday, 11th June, 1915

I met George Elliott tonight. We had a long yarn about home and it cheered us both up.

Friday, 25th June, 1915

I met Bill Oliver and Fred Cornett. The cruiser Lord Nelson, set fire to the village of Maidos, full of spies.”

Tom Bell was wounded in action the next day and died on the 29th June while being evacuated to the Base Hospital.

See his Personel File at the Australian Archives website

Many of the above mentioned ‘Anzac’ friends did not survive the war either, but it is nice to know they rest in peace and are remembered a hundred years on.

See Lone Pine Memorial at

Although we do not plan to go to Gallipoli this year to visit the Lone Pine Memorial, we can find much information on it, at the above Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, to honour our family hero, Private James Joseph Thomas Bell, an original ANZAC.